Selling Demand Generation to Your Sales Team: Building Trust and Shifting Mindsets | Episode 25

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Are your marketing and sales teams aligned? Gaining common ground is difficult, but ultimately, it’s what you need to do to help your company grow and sell more. The biggest disconnect between sales and marketing is the immediate view vs. the longer-term view. With sales compensated on meeting monthly or quarterly quotas, the “more leads now” drum beats loud and strong.

In this episode, we talk about this common situation. How do you build trust and communicate the value of quality leads vs. quantity of leads? Listen now to hear about how we help our clients with this scenario. Get ideas and tips about how to break down silos and work together to maximize revenue and results.

[00:24] Show intro

[03:28] Building trust and shifting mind sets

[06:08] Building a foundation for long-term growth

[08:37] The way B2B prospects buy is changing—and they want to drive

[13:11] Advantages of focusing on leads that are in-market and have buyer intent

[16:33] Content that meets buyers where they’re at

[19:05] Demand generation, in-bound leads, and focusing on buyers who raise their hand

[20:24] Key takeaway

[20:45] Outro

Hey everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You are listening to The Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in HR tech industry.


Welcome back to The Demand Gen Fix. Today we are going to be discussing something that we’ve talked about quite a bit before and we think is really important, and that’s getting your sales and marketing teams on the same page. We’re going to be talking about it from the marketer’s perspective and how to basically sell your ideas and your marketing plan to your sales team today. Greg is back with us and Deanna of course. And so, we’re just going to go ahead and start talking about the fact that your sales team is always asking for leads right now, and we understand that, but we all have a plan to build your demand generation engine. And so how we can work with the sales teams because we all have the same goal in mind, and that’s growth. So how can we all get on the same page?


Together sales and marketing can drive real growth for a company, but we’ve got to be able to sell demand generation to the sales team and bring them along on the journey because they’re not always thinking about it from the same perspective as we are. To your point, Jenni, they’re often coming to us and saying, we need more leads. Now, demand generation on the surface goes against the grain there because it’s a long-term strategy. It’s not like, all right, I put out a campaign and now all these leads are coming in the door and they’re really good leads for you. It’s how are we building brand awareness and trust in the market and basically creating that demand so that we ultimately can capture it. And so as you’re entering into building out a brand new demand generation engine, you’re going to have to sell it not just to the sales team, but to the leadership in the organization too, because it can take six to nine months before you start to see any results and really like 12 to 18 months for it to really start humming and to become this predictable growth engine for you.


Well, when you’re in high growth mode and you’ve got aggressive revenue goals, there’s a lot of pressure on the sales team to deliver from the executive team. So, you’re going to get a lot of pushbacks at times. We can’t make this kind of investment, we need results.


You’re always going to have to be selling it. Right? That’s what I’ve seen. I’m sure you guys have too. It’s like even if you get buy-in in the beginning and they’re like, okay, this is a great plan, one month later you’ve got to sell it again, two months later, you’ve got to sell it again. And you have to explain why. Okay, we’re not getting a million leads a day now because we’re focusing on high quality leads that are much more valuable than, all these leads that the salespeople have to chase around and don’t go anywhere.


Yeah. So true.


So how do you go ahead and build that confidence in your approach with the sales team? What are some ideas for that?


I think first you have to look at what are the potential concerns that sales have so that you can build up that trust with them. I think a few things that come to mind are the time it will take for the demand gen engine to rev up. It could take 12 to 18 months for it to really start humming. They’ll feel like there’s a lack of focus on immediate revenue needs from a sales perspective. They’re not looking at how do I hit my quota in 18 months? They’re looking at how do I hit my quota this month? And I think another pushback piece that they have, is, you are telling me I’m going to have less lead volume that you are switching from lead gen to demand generation. And so instead of that SDR handing me 20 appointments a month, you’re telling me now I have to wait six to nine months to even start to see anything. Oh, and it’s going to be less leads. It’s not surprising that this is concerning for a sales team when you are trying to sell that story of demand generation. And so I think you do have to be able to build confidence that this is the approach that is in their best interest. There are several things to look at to do that.


It’s a real mind shift, right? You have to help them to understand that you’re helping them break that cycle of chasing those leads that aren’t really ready to buy yet. It’s like everybody does all this research online now, we do it in our personal lives, but obviously in B2B it’s huge the amount of people, the amount of time people spend researching before they even call sales. So if you have everything ready to go and you’re educating those people in advance, then by the time they call the salespeople, they’re read more ready to buy, right?


You have to convince them that we’re actually helping to move their prospects through the sales cycle, right? Through the purchasing decision. We’re not just throwing something out there and hoping. There’s actually a plan. We’re trying to help move these prospects forward so that when they actually get to the sales process, it’s a quality lead. And yes, they may not have as many leads in a month, but they might have more sales, more people that actually buy, because once they get those leads, they’re quality leads.


I think that’s an important distinction to make for your sales team as you’re talking to them about, okay, we’re going to move to a demand generation strategy and here’s why instead of focusing on the quantity of leads, we’re focusing on the quality and building this foundation for long-term growth. And what that means is better sales results. So ultimately the sales reps may not have 20 appointments a month they’re chasing anymore. Maybe it’s five. But if these are five buyers that actually have raised their hand said, I am interested in seeing a demo of your HR payroll software, that lead has demonstrated that they have actual buying intent. So the odds of them closing are much higher than say, the lead that filled out your report that you put a gate in front of. And so as you think about it, like as a sales rep, if you are spending most of your time chasing those leads that actually weren’t in market to buy, that’s a lot of time that could have actually been spent focused on the opportunities that have a legit chance of moving through the pipeline. If you can build that perspective for the sales team, I think it helps them better frame their thinking around what the goal is. Becuase the goal is ultimately to help them be more successful.


When you’re not aligned, when sales and marketing are not aligned, it really does kill the growth potential. I think companies see it all the time. Both teams care about the same thing and that’s growing revenue, but they both feel like they have the power to do it themselves. And they’re working in silos and that’s just not how it works. You really have to work together to maximize results.


Right. And the nice thing is if you’re using a system like HubSpot where you can actually show the sales, the salespeople like, okay, this is what this particular prospect is reading. This is what they’ve learned, they already know about. When you turn that lead over to sales, they have that history of what that customer has already worked, prospect has already been engaging with. So that helps them with their conversations with the prospect. Working together like that is perfect, right? The perfect situation.


I think as you’re talking to your sales team about here’s why demand generation, one of the things to look at, which should really resonate with the sales team is the way that B2B prospects are buying today. The reality it is, it has changed. And we need to be on the same page to support this. At GrowthMode Marketing, when we talk to our clients and their sales leaders, they’re seeing this too. Things that worked in the past, strategies from a marketing standpoint, sales, they’re not getting the same results that they did once upon a time. And that’s frustrating because you’ve got these sales reps who are maybe very successful in the past to feel like they’re hitting a wall. We need to acknowledge the fact that prospects want to be in control of the buying process and not pushed into the vendor sales process.


And that is different. They want to trust a brand, but they’re leery of the sales process and they want to do their own research to make them majority of their purchase decisions before they’ll even engage with a sales rep. And so, I think they’re resistant to talking to a sales rep before they’re ready and they want to minimize the need for those interactions. And that’s probably very frustrating for the sales reps, right? Because the sales reps play a really important role in bringing in revenue for the company. And I’m sure it feels like, how can I do that if I don’t get to control the conversation from the get go? But the reality is the way people are buying the way they want to buy, they’re saying, I want to minimize my interaction with the sales rep. And I think that means you have to rely on marketing more to help build up that brand awareness and trust in the market so that they get to the point where they’re comfortable having that conversation with the sales rep.


If they’re going to reach out for a demo, right? They’re getting ready to buy and they’re probably going to only reach out to three people to say, give me a demo. They’re not going to go to 20 different people and sit through hour long demos of software. They’re going to do all of their research and check all of the surveys and go on their slack and talk to other people and figure it out before they even call somebody for a demo.


Yes, they’re already up to 80% through that decision process, so by the time they reach out and say, I will talk to a sales rep, they’ve already made their short list. And the reality is, if they didn’t know about you, they didn’t think about you as the other 80% of the time that they were researching and making that decision, you are not going to be part of the conversation. I just saw a post on LinkedIn specifically about this topic that it really resonated with me. It was like, you have a 1% chance of getting chosen if you weren’t part of their shortlist to begin with. Which means they’ve already been researching and doing things. That’s where like cold calling comes in and oh yeah, we happen to be looking for the solution. And suddenly, they’re having a conversation with you. Well, they were having, research and conversations with other people first. Whereas if you’re on the short list, you have a one in three chance of being selected, right? So, you want to be on that short list. You want to build that brand awareness and trust long before they raise their hand and say, I’m going to buy and I’m ready to make my decision. Because you don’t know when they’re going to be ready to buy.  You want to be on their radar for sure.


I can see why that would be very frustrating as a salesperson, especially if you’ve been in the business a long time because things have changed so much. That being said, you also have to realize it’s not your fault that you’re not getting the same traction that you used to. It’s not yours. It’s the way that everything has changed. So I think helping everybody realize that that’s the issue. And it’s not like marketing is trying to tell sales, you’re doing it all wrong, do it our way. That’s not the point here. The point is that we all need to pivot and do things differently to get to that end goal.


Yeah, great point. Because I think at the end of the day,  if the sales team can step back and recognize that they too can actually be a really good advocate for building out demand generation in looking at the long-term strategy, what a dream come true for a sales rep to start to get leads who they know are in market, have buying intent and having those conversations are going to go so much differently than chasing after those cold leads who might have filled out a form and engaged with various content and seem to be engaged but aren’t actually in market, aren’t going to buy. A lot of people will take the sales meeting because they don’t know how to say no, they don’t want to be mean, or they’re just interested in the technology and the product. I’ve seen it happen a million times.


The sales rep gets really excited because it’s a company that they really want to work with, and they see like the opportunity there. But the reality is, if that buyer, that company is not ready to buy, it’s highly unlikely if you’re selling an enterprise level HR technology solution, that you are going to convince them before they have made up that decision themselves that it’s time to move it. And that seems obvious, but I can tell you, I’ve talked to prospects out there in this industry who are like, we can see clearly it is in their best interest to buy our product. I can’t understand why they’re not moving forward. You can’t convince them. They have to come to that conclusion themselves that this is what they need, that the budget is there, that it’s the time to make the move from a sales perspective. Again, change the narrative there, talk to someone who already recognizes that it’s a whole different ballgame.


So let’s talk a little bit about what marketing can do upfront to create this demand generation engine and make it easier for sales in the long run.


If everybody’s researching everything online. So, you need to really have a strong digital footprint from your website to your social media, podcasts, or blogs or any of that kind of stuff that you have out there for your company. And the salespeople too. They can be advocates for the company and the product you know and be out there doing the same thing. It’s not reliant on the company itself. Really creating that strong footprint, it’s the first thing you have to sink your teeth into.


Make sure that you’re concentrating not just on the bottom of the funnel. You have to have content out there that’s for the top of funnel so that these people who are just dabbling and just starting to do their research, you’ve got stuff out there for them too. You’re not just drilling in the sales, the sales stuff, you’re giving them information that’s relevant, that’s good for them to know and also middle of the funnel, really getting your brand out there and creating credibility and brand awareness. And then also having some of that salesy stuff out there as well. You have to make sure that you’re hitting all three levels of the funnel.


For sure. And I think from a sales perspective, if marketing and sales are aligned, I look at it like, okay, marketing should be working on creating the brand awareness, the trust, creating demand in the market, and how do we capture it so that sales can focus on in-market opportunities? And that means they avoid spending their time on leads that are not ready to talk to sales. I think in that scenario, sales and marketing need to be in alignment and an agreement that this is what constitutes an in-market opportunity. I think what a lot of organizations have traditionally done. There are certainly sales organizations like, just give me a name, I will run with it, I will work it well. This is saying do it differently. Don’t just take a name. Don’t use lead scores just to see like, oh, they’ve engaged with a ton of content, therefore it’s time for sales to chase.


Look at the content that they’re looking at. Does that demonstrate that they’re top of funnel or does it demonstrate they’re maybe middle of funnel or bottom of funnel? They should not be handed to sales if they’re still top of funnel. So, you could build that lead score way up to hit that trigger to say, they’re engaged enough, we’re sending it to sales. That’s the way organizations have traditionally done it. That’s the way marketing automation kind of built it. But I think you have to take a step back from that. We had an episode where we talked specifically about how to use lead scoring and how to change your thinking around it. It really is, okay, instead of triggering at a certain score, let’s look at the type of content they’re doing and if they’re really engaged in a topic, great, let’s trigger it to go into specific nurture campaigns to see if there’s buying intent there.


If you’re not handing someone that had a 50 because they read every blog article you put out there and they download your podcast and they do all these different things that you can track, well, I’m interested in your information and the great things you have to say from a lot thought leadership perspective, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to talk to a sales rep. That could be a year down the road, two years down the road. You have to recognize that. So if sales can focus on in-market opportunities, they’re going to have better success because they’re spending their time on the most likely to close leads.


And demand generation really supports the whole process because you’re building brand awareness, you’re really getting your name out there, like I said before, you’re building credibility so that you are getting that prospect to the point that you were just talking about where they’re in market.


You’re creating more inbound leads, which are people who want to talk to us.


Those are the high-quality leads, right? If they’re raising their hand and saying, I want to talk to you, that’s way better than cold calling them.


This is better for sales because they spend less time chasing leads that are really not ready to buy. They have low buying intent and then they’re spending their time on real opportunities.


If you are sending better quality leads to the sales team, they may not be getting as many leads, at least in the beginning, but the leads they’re getting that are better quality are going to result in shorter sales cycles, higher close rates, and lower customer acquisition costs. And over time, that’s going to equate to bigger growth for an organization. And that is ultimately why you’ve got to play the long game and look at demand generation as a strategy that you build into your organization.


The key takeaway here is that it’s important for marketing and sales to be aligned. We’re all responsible for growth. It’s not just one or the other. You can’t blame each other. We all have to work together, and demand generation can help to create the catalyst for that growth. Stronger together.




Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe from more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.


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